Prevent Lead Exposure at Home

By | January 9, 2017

Cleaning Up Lead Dust in and around the House

Homeowners can take simple steps to prevent lead poisoning in their children, which could protect them from criminal behavior later in life.

prevent lead exposure

A study in the May 27 issue of PLoS Medicine showed that lead exposure in infancy and early childhood is strongly correlated with criminal behavior in young adulthood. Starting in 1979, the Cincinnati-based research team tracked blood lead levels in 250 children from birth to age 7 and then collected data on arrests over a decade later. They report that the risk of arrest increased as blood lead levels increased.

“I never would have thought that we would be seeing these effects into the later 20s,” said study co-author Kim Dietrich, a professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati, in an interview with the Washington Post on May 28, 2008. “I’m actually quite astounded and quite worried about this. Although lead levels have been going down in this country, a large proportion of the population now in their 20s and 30s had blood levels in this neurotoxic range.”

Lead poisoning is related to developmental delays, lower IQs and poor school performance . . . and it is totally preventable.

Many sources of lead, such as lead based paint or leaded gasoline, have been outlawed in recent decades. However, children whose families live in homes that were built during or before the mid-1970s may still be exposed to lead chips, flakes and dust from the old paint or to lead in the water from old pipes. They may also be exposed in older school buildings.

Public health screenings have shown that as many as one in four young children in older urban neighborhoods have toxic levels of lead in their blood.

Clean Up the Lead

Here are some ideas for parents who want to reduce their children’s risk:

•Mop up all dust or use a vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly.
•Let children play in grassy areas instead of dirt.
•Teach children to wash their hands often.
•Plant sunflowers: they can clean lead out of dirt.
•Offer children a variety of healthy foods: lead often takes the place of other nutrients in the body.

Protect Against Lead Dust During Renovations


Finally, parents, homeowners and landlords should be careful about sanding and repainting. It might be tempting to think getting rid of all the old paint and starting fresh will solve the problem. However, paint that is on the walls and not chipping or peeling is not the cause of the problem, while dust and flakes from poorly handled repainting or renovating jobs are potential sources.

It is important to isolate the work area so that dust does not become airborne. Contractors and painters who take on this job should use a wet-mop approach to remove all dust and flakes from the work area. Dirt outside the building and floors inside the building should be protected with plastic sheeting or drop clothes to prevent contamination.

Test for Lead

Concerned homeowners and parents can have their indoor air, water and dust tested for lead. People who live in older neighborhoods and are worried about their children should talk to their pediatrician or health clinic about blood lead testing. Public health agencies often have blood lead screening drives through schools and churches.
Parents who learn that their children’s blood lead levels are high should talk to their doctor about how to address the problem, in addition to taking steps at home to prevent exposure.

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